Marathon Training

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5 Ways to Build Endurance for Long Runs

The most common thing I hear when someone finds out that I run marathons is this:

“How do you do that?! I can’t even run X miles!”

My response is typically this: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Like any huge challenge or goal in life, you have to break it down into small, attainable goals in order to reach the finish line.

So, how do you build your endurance for long runs? Here’s my advice:

1. Focus on time first. Rather than thinking about how far you need to run, switch your perspective to time instead. Let your watch be your guide. For instance, instead of saying you’re going to run three miles today, make it 30 minutes or 20 minutes instead. The next time you run, add 5 minutes to it.

2. Walk-run. People often ask how I can run 26.2 miles straight. The answer is that I don’t. Many notable marathon runners such as former Olympian Jeff Galloway recommend a “walk-run” method. Typically, it means you run for a certain amount of time and walk for a certain amount of time. This builds endurance while also being kinder on your joints, which can also often reduce the likelihood of injury. You can set some watches to chime during specific intervals so you are running for five minutes and walking for two minutes, etc.

3. Be consistent. Starting and stopping or only running once a week for a long time will not produce terrific endurance results (believe me!). The more you run the same distance well in advance of your race, the better you will feel and the more comfortable your body will be at that distance. So, if your goal is to run a 5K, you should be doing a 2-mile run, a 3-mile run and perhaps a 5-mile run every week, consistently, for several weeks. When you finally arrive at your 5K race, it’ll feel like a breeze.

4. Refuel. Sometimes, when you’re growing your endurance, you’re burning more energy than what’s left in the tank. To stabilize your energy during a longer run (whether you’re at 4 or 14 miles), be sure to adjust your replenishment. Lower mileage like 4 miles might mean bringing a small water bottle with an electrolyte drink cut with water to give your body a boost mid-run. Longer runs will usually mean a caffeinated energy gel, electrolyte drink and/or sodium-electrolyte tablets or capsules.

5. Keep your eyes up. It’s easy to look down at the ground as your slogging along, but resist the temptation! Keep your eyes up and focus on a point ahead of you. Set mini goals along the way such as “I’m going to jog to that light pole and then take a breather.” Challenge yourself to go a little farther than what’s comfortable to push your limits.

Happy running, friends! :)

13_1 miles

5 Reasons You Should Add a Half-Marathon to Your Training Schedule

If you’ve ever run a full marathon, you know what the training can feel like.

Monotonous.

Mostly because you’re running (much of the time) on the same paths, on the same days at the same times.

But, running a full marathon rarely happens on those same paths. It’s important to switch things up.

With that in mind, I recently signed up for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego, California this August as a mid-training schedule prep run for the Marine Corps Marathon in October.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve run a half marathon while training for a full marathon…and one when I hadn’t even trained (whoops!). It was the race distance I LOVED and did over and over again until I took the plunge into 26.2 miles.

Here’s why I’m adding the half-marathon into my marathon training schedule:

1. It gives you another milestone. Just like marathon training, you’re constantly looking ahead to the next mile marker to keep you going. By giving yourself a race to look forward to within the three- to four-month training slog, you can successfully break things up so the time frame isn’t so daunting

2. It keeps you on track. There’s no cheating your mileage or long runs when you have this run intentionally built into your training calendar. Having a half-marathon smack dab in the middle of your full-marathon training schedule will help you stick with your long runs week after week so you’re prepared for your first race.

3. It gives you a glimpse of your weaknesses. If you time your half-marathon correctly during your training calendar, you’ll begin to notice a few things during the race. Maybe hills were a disaster during the race. Guess what you need to incorporate into your workout regimen prior to your full marathon race? Hills! Maybe you didn’t have any gas left at a certain point or felt off with your hydration. Guess what you need to practice or retool more? Your fluid and electrolyte replenishment!

4. It gets you excited. There’s nothing better than the day of a race! While nerves might kick in initially, the joy you feel as you run in a different area, take in the sights and breathe in the energy of so many other fired up runners will give you the highest runner’s high that you’ve ever experience. Talk about inspiration to take your training to the next level!

5. It’s practice. Practice really doesn’t make “perfect,” but it will certainly help you feel more mentally prepared for racing conditions and what it will be like on race day, especially if you have to travel to get to your full marathon race. (That’s a post for another time!)

So, if you’re ready to incorporate the magical 13.1-mile race into your full marathon training schedule OR you want to try it out for the first time ever, take a peek at this link where you can see upcoming half-marathon races.

You can also search for other races across the country here.

Happy running, friends! :)

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10 Ways to Get Motivated to Run (Again)

How I rediscovered running again

It’s really easy to stop running.

I mean, REALLY easy.

Your toddler woke you up for the umpteenth time last night. You ate the wrong thing the night before. It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s hot. The bed is comfy. My favorite running pants are dirty. I’m not sure where my socks are. My running shoes are worn out. I don’t feel like it. I’m tired. It’s going to be a long day….

…you get the picture.

And, in full honesty, this has been my life since completing the Boston Marathon early last year. Between injuries, stress and just plain ol’ ordinary excuses, I made it very easy on myself to stop running.

So, I did…mostly.

Without any real training commitments, I had no real motivation to get up and go…until I decided to try my luck and put in for the Marine Corps Marathon.

BINGO!

In February, I received the email notification and my fate was sealed.

And I had to start this whole get-back-into-running-shape thing ALL.OVER.AGAIN.

Okay, so if you’ve been struggling to get motivated to run again (like me), here’s my best advice now that I’m two solid weeks in.

10 Ways to Get Motivated to Run (Again)

1. Ignore the weather. Yes, I get it. It’s muggy or freezing or hotter than h*@l where you live. Guess what: unless you live on the beach, the weather will NEVER be perfect so forget about checking the weather app.

2. Run early. I’m sure all the night owls are going to hate me for this one. Yep, I make myself go to bed EARLY so I can get up at the crack of dawn. You know why? Because the end of the day is a HECK of a lot harder to make sure my workout happens than at the beginning when the kids (and my husband!) are still asleep. It’s “me” time, y’all!

3. Eat lighter at night. Overall, the “eat lighter” concept is one that I’m taking to heart as part of my “get-my-butt-in-gear” goals anyway. Let me tell you though: eating steak the night before a run (whether it’s 3 or 13 miles) is NOT a great way to prep for a workout. Meat takes forever to digest and one of the things that drives me insane is having to make a pit stop at a gas station while I’m en route to my destination. Ain’t NOBODY got time for that!

4. Tell everyone. Do you know how many people ask me how my running is going? Um, just about every friend or colleague I know. Why? Because I tell them. It’s not about bragging; it’s about accountability. Who LOVES to admit when they’re failing at something? Neither do I.

5. Pick (and Post!) your schedule. I trolled Google, printed out a bunch of blank calendar sheets for the next three months (up until marathon Sunday) and wrote out how many miles I needed to run on particular days. Then, I covered it in magnets on the fridge and mark on it every time I complete my run. It’s a constant reminder and also a great way to feel like you “checked the box” for the day.

6. Don’t overdo it. Runner’s high is pretty amazing, I’ll admit. In fact, in my first week back at it, I hardly wanted to take a day off, especially when the weather turned and it was *suddenly* 73 degrees on a Saturday morning…in July…in Arizona. (MIRACLE) Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to rest up in between runs. Your muscles and joints are taking a pounding. A good rule of thumb is to never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 percent. Try running two or three times in your first week, but gauge it by how your muscles are doing.

7. Roll out. That lactic acid is going to creep in as you get back to running, so your job is to push it out of your unsuspecting muscles so you’re not extra crampy. Get a foam roller, the Stick and even a golf ball (you’ll thank me!) so you can get to work. I actually like to roll out my quads and calves prior to a run to help loosen them up and make them a little more flexible before I hit the pavement.

8. Focus on drinking (water). Ugh. Who wants to drink boring ol’ water? I’ve tried filling up a giant water cup and drinking out of a straw; scheduling water breaks to get up and fill up…nothing seems to work. Then, I brought a personal water infuser to work, a cucumber, and some lemons. Voila! Insta water excitement. The flavor was a lot better than nasty Arizona water so I drank quite a bit more. There’s something out there that says to “drink 1/2 your body weight in water,” but as a person who has suffered from hyponatremia multiple times, I don’t like that at all. You should judge your hydration by two things: the color of your urine and the amount of fluids you lose during a workout. Basically, the lighter the urine, the better. If it’s clear, back off on hydrating. If it’s amber colored, you’re majorly dehydrated. Always weigh yourself before your run and after. You’ll get an idea of how much you were sweating and you should aim to drink that amount plus the norm. As a native Arizonan, hydration has always been a critical component in distance running, but I haven’t always done it well. Learn from my mistakes!

9. Find a buddy. I admit; I’m a bit more of a lone wolf when it comes to running. I love the quiet opportunity to reflect or zone out and running with a buddy can be a bit distracting in good and bad ways. Sometimes, especially at first, you need a buddy who can get you going, meet up with you and push you. Find someone who’s at or just above your fitness level and you’ll be happy and inspired.

10. Get happy. If you’re feeling like you’re dragging yourself out of bed and hating your life before you go for a run, it’s time for a perspective change! Take a few moments before you head out the door to think about why you’re doing this and what you hope to see outside on your run. Load your iPod/iPhone up in advance with some of your favorite songs and speed ahead to a favorite one to get your run started. If all else fails: SMILE. It’s super hard to be a Negative Nelly with a smile plastered across your face.

Happy running, friends! :)

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Unfriended: The Dangers of Running Groups + Social Media

4 Quick Tips for Managing Your Running Group in Social Media

It came out of left field.

Before heading out for a run on a beautiful spring day, I realized I hadn’t seen any posts in my Facebook newsfeed from the local running group I had joined about a year earlier. While I hadn’t been able to make it out in a very long time because of a nagging Achilles injury following the Boston Marathon, I enjoyed interacting with other runners and getting little bits of inspiration watching them accumulate medals and revel in another trail run.

Searching for the running group, it dawned on me…

They had unfriended me.

Just a few weeks prior, I had finally been able to compete in a race again. A half-marathon under my belt and excitement bolstered, I blogged about my experience and shared it with the group.

It was promptly deleted and I then received a message from one member who wrote saying he enjoyed the post, and another from the group’s facilitator:

“I didn’t see you at the Phoenix Marathon. Will you be joining our group?”

I responded with my story about my injury; that I was getting back into running and was intimidated by the pace and the morning runs didn’t work with my work schedule at the moment (smiley emoticons sprinkled throughout). :)

No response.

Of the 689 members, apparently, my not showing up or properly introducing myself to one of its organizers was enough for me to get booted.

I was shocked. I felt rejected and upset.

In 20 years of competitively running (even with high school girls!) I had never experienced this before. The runners I knew were friendly, welcoming and cheerful, doped up on runners’ highs and sports gels.

I wrote her back asking for clarification, wondering if posting a blog about running wasn’t okay or if I had broken some other rule. Nothing in the rules on the group page mentioned anything about not posting articles or requiring that you pay a membership fee or show up to workouts in order to be part of the group. In fact, the message on their page says, “Please do not be intimidated or afraid to come out and meet us!”

Though that had been my exact response, she never returned a message to me encouraging me to feel otherwise.

It’s tempting to want to shut down and stick with being a lonely canal runner, I’m reminding myself that this is just ONE bad experience; that there are plenty of other runners I’ve encountered who are friendly and welcoming regardless.

I choose to run happy.

I share this story not to come across as a whiner or say “woe is me,” but to encourage awareness, especially when it comes to social media and how you choose to interact with potential group members.

4 Quick Tips For Managing Your Running Group in Social Media:

1) Be Exclusive or Be Inclusive. You can’t be both. If you choose to be exclusive, make sure you are clear about the parameters you expect for someone to be part of the group. Whether it’s a mile pace, membership dues or the fact that you must love Star Wars, just be sure to write it down somewhere and share it openly.

2) Unfriend Cautiously (and Kindly). The running community is truly a small one. I’m respectfully keeping the group’s name out of this article, but it will be difficult for me to speak highly of the group or feel good seeing them at upcoming races. It’s a small world; be careful of who (and how) you unfriend someone.

3) Share Group Guidelines. If you’re just a Facebook group of runners who interact, be sure to post what’s okay and not okay to include in the group. Whether it’s offensive material, self-promoting blogs, or trying to sell something to the group, spell it out and then encourage new members to read the guidelines.

4) Have Grace. If someone happens to break a rule you’ve stated, manage the post and message the person to remind them of your guidelines. Ultimately, don’t make it a deal breaker unless it truly is one. People make mistakes so start by giving them the benefit of the doubt.

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The SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan

How to recover from a half-marathon even faster

phoenix half marathonJust a few days ago, I ran my first half-marathon (the Phoenix Marathon) in more than five years (I’ve been on the full-marathon track).

And I didn’t train for it.

In fact, the longest run I had done, which was admittedly sporadic at best, was about 4 miles on a trail.

What’s more surprising/miraculous/crazy is that a) I didn’t get injured and b) actually ran the majority of it.

Now, only three days later, I’ve completed a trail run at lunch and it felt phenomenal

How did this happen???

Here’s what I’m thinking happened and why my legs felt so good only three days later:

Race Day

  • I eased off my per-mile pace. On race day, I dropped my pace by more than a minute per mile and went in with zero expectations and all the permission in the world to walk. This was about completing the half-marathon, not PR’ing.
  • I wore a tried-and-true workout outfit. Most runners will tell you not to eat or wear anything new on race day. Well, when you haven’t prepared at all, this concept is kind of thrown out the window. The second best thing to do is choose a workout outfit that consistently performs on your training runs…including your worn-in running shoes rather than your new pair (Asics vs Hokas in this case).
  • I supplemented heavily on the course. I have a history of dealing with hyponatremia (basically throwing your body’s natural balance of sodium and electrolytes off because of too high of a water intake or use of an over-the-counter pain reliever, which affects water absorption), so every time I train for a distance race, I carefully supplement. As an Arizona runner, this means going for Gatorade rather than water and Gu instead of fluids. This race included two caffeinated shots/drinks as natural energizers.
  • I used my compression socks. Since implementing compression socks into my training and races, I’ve noticed a little more control in my legs and feet, which comes in handy when fatigue begins to set in.
  • I played “happy” music. Nothing can stand in my way when I hear Pharrell’s “Happy” start bumping on my iPhone. Keep your phone stocked with happy, upbeat (but not overly energized) music for the natural mood lifts you will inevitably need.

Okay, so that was race day. Next up: the recovery, which really begins the second you cross that finish line. I’m not an expert or a physician, but here is my SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan and what I did to speed up the rebuilding process (along with a cool acronym…that always helps, right?).

SMART Half-Marathon Recovery Plan

SMART= Socks, Move, Assess, Replenish & Time

Socks. Yep, those compression socks again. Time and time again, I hear runners sing the praises of these wonderful socks and boy, do they help! The compression is thought to aid in circulation. Increased circulation means blood flow; better blood flow means getting that yucky lactic acid build up out of there and the good stuff in. I wore mine all the way home, showered and then put on a fresh pair for the rest of the day.

Move. The best way to keep your legs loose and blood flowing is to do the counter-intuitive…the exact OPPOSITE of what your legs want to do after running 13.1 miles. MOVE. Walk around the house, do whatever you can; just don’t lay down for the rest of the day and be a couch potato. Enjoy a lazy bout a few days later or you will truly regret it.

Assess. Half-marathons and other long distance runs can do damage to your muscles. The bad habits your feet have picked up along the way (landing on the side of your foot or on the back of your heel, for instance) are more pronounced as you’re continually doing it for miles and miles. Assess the aches and pains and make sure they’re not injuries. Ice baths (yes, get 10-pound bags, dump them into bath tub, and sink those tootsies and your body into it–or simply go out to the pool if it’s unheated in a colder climate) can help with inflammation, but if you’re still hurting, you may have done something. Go easy.

Replenish. Your body expels fluids through breathing and sweat and your muscle tissue breaks down as you run. Replenishing your body immediately following the run is critical. Gatorade or a similar electrolyte-infused drink as well as a protein-rich drink such as a bottle of chocolate milk (yum!) or even Muscle Milk-like products can do WONDERS. I downed a sample bottle after my race and I know it made a difference in my recovery! You want to get that protein into your body within 30 minutes of completing your run. If you are already used to a protein supplement, consider stashing it in your gear check bag and mixing it up after your finish.

Time. This is probably the hardest part of recovery for many people. Anxious to capitalize on that banked endurance, some of us get a little too excited and decide to tackle a 10K run or maybe even another race following the half-marathon. Please know that while there are some die-hards out there who thrive on ultras and running race after race, most of us haven’t prepared for that. Give your body time to mend. Some people recommend giving yourself a day for every mile run, but I would suggest to you that that’s overkill. Go for a walk every day following the half-marathon and see how you’re feeling. Run on a softer surface like dirt or grass for your first run back at it to give yourself a little more shock absorption.

Congratulations on preparing for and completing a half-marathon! It’s a huge accomplishment and one everyone should pursue at least once in their lifetime.

Run happy, my friends.

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#marathonforgood

coffee

5 Reasons Why Coffee is Key Before a Run

Multiple studies continue to prove the positive benefits of caffeine.

I used to be afraid of coffee.

I mean, not cowering-in-a-corner “afraid,” but worried about what the supposed stimulant would do to my body and how it would likely dehydrate me.

And then I read the science and realized that I bought all of the myths.

Now, my routine nearly always includes sipping half a cup of black coffee before heading to the gym or going out for a run…and it’s not because I’m sleepy.

Let’s take a look at the exercise meets caffeine studies.

It can boost your speed.

First, there was this one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which points to a faster performance in cyclists who had coffee prior to a race.

It can boost your endurance.

Then, I came across this one, which points out the increased endurance athletes experience thanks to caffeine.

It can boost your burn.

And I found this one, which talks about caffeine boosting your metabolism.

It can boost your mood and reduce your calorie intake.

Next, and most recently, is this one from the Journal of Applied Physiology, which highlights how you feel doing your workout if you first fueled up with a cup o’ joe. An added benefit? Participants who had caffeine prior to their workout actually consumed FEWER calories at lunch!

It can boost your…

And, finally, on a somewhat anecdotal note, it seems to help *ahem* “get things moving.” No one wants to have to make a pit stop when they’re in the middle of a long run. Something about coffee just does the trick.

No more fear of coffee for me…Pass the light roast, please!

How to Overcome the Highs and Lows of Training

The last few weeks have been full ones. Lots of highs and a few lows.

A few big life changes. A vacation. An injury.

Then lots of rest…hoping the “injury” was really just an irritation that would resolve itself in a few days and go away on its own.

It didn’t.

So, I found myself here, in a wonderful podiatrist’s office.

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Good advice, right?

After an X-ray, an exam that included poking and moving my foot around to determine if my pain was Achille’s tendon-related, Dr. Mark pulled out the ultrasound. After having two kids, it’s bizarre to have someone get that out and stick it on your foot.

The prognosis? A torn perineal brevis tendon, more minimal than the Achilles. Rehab for four weeks, plus topical anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and this bad boy….

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Not my idea of a cute shoe, but at least it’s only for a half-hour on each side in the evening.

All right, so all of this probably appears to spell “you’re crazy to keep going and run the marathon.”

On the contrary; I know when it comes to marathon training, you have to overcome a lot of highs and lows.

There are going to be crummy weather conditions while you prepare for the marathon.

Run anyway.

Life is going to throw all kinds of crazy curve balls at you that threaten to eat up your training time.

Run anyway.

Your body will likely be sore, overtired, overused and slightly broken during or after the marathon.

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Take the advice of a doctor, but keep going.

I’ve been banned from running on pavement, but cleared for the elliptical machine and encouraged to get back to weight training. So, there’s my silver lining.

I’m not stuck on a couch rendered helpless. I can still prepare even if my Boston Marathon run isn’t my best time.

In short, if you’re trying to figure out how to overcome the highs and lows of training, just decide.

Then, let  your feet do the rest.

2012 Boston Marathon Tips

Are You Mentally Prepared?

It’s been a year since I ran the 115th Boston Marathon and definitely a time for reflection. I think the biggest part of my preparation that could have been better was my mental preparation. As I’ve shared before on this blog, mental preparation is so key for success.

I was so drained from raising money for charity, getting my travel plans in order and training that when I found myself at the starting line, the event hit me like a ton of bricks.

Hopefully, this year’s round of Boston Marathon runners will take heed to Runner’s World’s recent spotlight article called “8 Mental Tricks for Boston Runners.” Boy, I wish I had been able to hear Harvard psychologist and Runner’s World advisor Dr. Jeff Brown prior to my race! Dr. Brown has been the psychologist assisting the Boston Marathon for more than a decade, so he knows all about the psychology of marathon running.

In the video, Dr. Brown shares his eight mental strategies for runners. Here’s a quick synopsis:

1. Trust Your Training. Set up a routine and follow the routine in advance. Going over your plan will help reduce anxiety, according to Brown.

2. Eliminate the Doubts. Keep positive self statements in your mind. Negative thoughts make your shoes heavy, says Brown.

3. Put Life’s Distractions Away Before and During the Race. Self explanatory.

4. If Something Unexpected Happens…accept it for what it is and don’t worry about it. Perfection isn’t required to finish the race, explains Brown.

5. Overcome HeartBreak Hill. Mental tricks like repeating “glide,” “up,” and using other positive word associations will take your mind off your body and performance.

6. Indulge Your Superstitions. Superstitions can help you feel positive and encouraged. And, if you lost lucky your socks, don’t worry. Embrace new types of luck.

7. Choose 2 or 3 Goals. Setting several goals for your race is helpful so you can feel successful at multiple times during the race and feel overall satisfied with your race performance even if you didn’t hit your PR (personal record) time, says Brown.

8. Remind Yourself “Why” You’re Doing It. Know why you’re there and focus on it. Whether it’s your kids waiting for you at the finish line, accomplishing your ultimate goal or gaining bragging rights, focus on your “why.”

Watch Dr. Brown’s video here.

CoQ10 is Wonder Supplement For Muscle Recovery in Runners

I love it when I finally stumble across research that supports what my intuition told me, don’t you?

Here’s a really exciting discovery for me: while using a supplement by Isagenix that includes CoQ10, Resveratrol and Vitamin D, I noticed that my running performance seemed to enhance. I felt like my recovery was stronger, that I was even breathing better and performing better during my long runs.

Come to find out, Spanish researchers say CoQ10 makes a huge difference for us runners. Wahoo!

Here’s an excerpt from an article published by the Isagenix Research & Development Team on IsagenixHealth.net,:

“Researchers from the University of Granada of Spain wrote, ‘The present findings provide evidence that oral supplementation of coQ10 during high-intensity exercise is efficient reducing the degree of oxidative stress… [and] muscle damage during physical performance.’ 

The researchers, who published their results in the European Journal of Nutrition, supplemented 20 highly trained male athletes with either a placebo or coQ10 prior to a 50-kilometer run across one of the most difficult terrains in Europe.”

The result? 

“…a significantly greater increase in oxidative stress in the placebo group compared to the coQ10 group. Similarly, the athletes consuming the coQ10 supplement also had evidence of increased antioxidant defenses and reduction in overexpression of pro-inflammatory genes.  Finally, coQ10 reduced levels of creatinine, an indicator of muscle breakdown, compared to the placebo group.”

Amazing, right?? Supplementing with CoQ10 with products like Ageless Actives by Isagenix can actually protect your muscles and improve how your cells respond to intense exercise better than not supplementing!  

By the way, CoQ10 is naturally produced in your body, but as you age, your body can’t produce it the way it used to. CoQ10, as the study points out, assists your cells to reduce breakdown in your body. Youthful aging and improved running performance? Yes please!